A conversation between Thierry Goldberg Gallery and Filip Bacławski
Thierry Goldberg: Tell me a bit about your background and how you started making art.
Filip Bacławski: I was born in Chojnice, a city in the north of Poland and my hometown is Nowa Cerkiew, which is a small village near Chojnice.
My love for crayons and drawing began with the coloring books my mother bought me pretty often from the newsstand when I was a little kid. I was always filling them up quickly because I couldn’t wait to get a new one. In my teenage years, I had trouble in terms of concentrating and focusing, but drawing was a thing that helped me to stay focused when I had a task to do. For example, during classes instead of taking notes, I was filling my entire notebooks with patterns and figures, often faces, but at the same time, I was taking an active part in the class. Basically, I was just scribbling, this corresponded to my thoughts, which were strongly chaotic. You could say that things changed when the pandemic began, then I started to create drawings/paintings that were finally finished. Thanks to having more free time, I noticed and remembered how important art is to me and that’s what I want to do.
TG: What is your drawing process like? How do you begin a work?
FB: I take a lot of pictures of my friends, buildings, plants, and objects. Anything that interests me with its shape, energy, form, or design. At the same time, I make a lot of outlines/small drawings from those photos. I start by drawing a face with a pencil then I draw shadows and then I color the face (usually in yellow). Usually, the whole composition is created around the face. I fill in the rest with patterns and my life-inspired sketches that I drew earlier in the sketchbook. I work quickly, I outline the objects, then fill them up with color. I also use remnants of the old failed works from which I make collages. I treat it as an exercise that helps me understand color and shape, also composition.
TG: Your works have a very interesting style. How did you arrive at this style for your work?
FB: I think it's due to constant experimentation. It’s worth noting that artists like Matisse, Kirchner, and Gauguin had an important role in the process of developing my style. Norman Gilbert, who I discovered recently, I think that the way he combines patterns with colors is a masterstroke. I am self-taught. I see that my style is constantly on the move, it is changing. I constantly work on myself, learning and observing what suits me and what does not. I have noticed that the possibilities of crayons in combination with paper/board are endless. The combination of energetic and luminous colors that are intense and dense with pencil gives an amazing fuzzy effect. This is a quick process that has become a regular part of my work. I do a lot of things in my daily life quickly and sometimes too impulsively. This style corresponds very much to how I function on a daily basis. That's me.
TG: Who are the people in your portraits? What makes a subject interesting to you?
FB: These people are my loved ones and myself. I treat my art somewhat like a diary. I have always wanted to keep a diary, but writing is not my thing. By portraying my friends, I record specific moments in my life. I see how they change, how their faces change. I'm not able to draw someone I don't know and with which I am not connected in any way. When I create I think of a particular person, which makes me get closer to that person. Portraying someone is a very personal thing for me so I only draw the moments that are important to me.
TG: Do you draw from memory, photographs, or life?
FB: Mostly my process involves combining drawing from memory, photos, and life.I draw my friends from photos I take by myself. Unfortunately, I find it difficult to concentrate on drawing them from life. I don't want it to affect the situation in any way. I often take out my phone and snap a picture. They're getting used to it. At least I think so...
Sometimes I ask them to pose for me, but only for a while. I love their smiles and the excitement on their faces when they are being drawn. You can see they find it amusing! I always finish the drawing when I am alone, adding sketches, figures, objects, and patterns that I take from memory as well as from life. It's a whole process that takes a while.
TG: Patterns seem to play a big role in your work. How do you think your patterns complement your subjects?
FB: The patterns in my drawings serve a decorative function and make a background for the figure. When I come across an interesting pattern, I take a picture of it or redraw it into a sketchbook. Sometimes the pattern that appears in the background could be just an old sweater I once found in a second-hand store.
TG: Your figures, though depicted alone, are often shown among various faces. Some of your figures even wear clothing that is composed of faces. Who are these people? How do they relate to the original subject?
FB: These are my friends, all of these faces are taken from the sketchbook and they were drawn from life. I create them quickly, often several times, and each time differently. When I make these sketches I am guided by instinct, I allow myself to be spontaneous and let my emotions run free. Dressing somebody up in my face, as well as somebody else’s in these drawings, makes me feel some kind of connection between them and me. Thanks to that I become more attached to the drawing itself. Sometimes they show the emotions of the person being portrayed. In "Walking like a Stray" I portrayed my boyfriend Mark, who is a musician. He did a song with a similar title, which inspired me to create this work. In the lyrics of his songs, he describes emotions through action and movement. So I showed it in motion when he walked at night, illuminated by the white light of the moon.
TG: Your color pallet is very vibrant. How do you go about choosing the colors for your portraits? Do the colors you choose have any special relation to the subject you are depicting?
FB: I don't have any rules or methods. I think it depends on the situation and the season we are in. Sometimes I am guided by my own instincts and the emotions I feel, the next time I am inspired by the clothes the portrayed person is wearing or the colors I associate with them.
TG: Yellow in particular seems to be used in a lot of your works, especially as a replacement for your figure's skin tones. Why yellow? What significance do you think it plays in developing your subject's identities?
FB: Coloring the face is the second step I usually take while creating a portrait. Yellow gives me so much energy and inspires me to build the rest of the work around it. The face I know, combined with yellow has a very stimulating effect on me. The face gets a new expression. This color gives them some kind of vitality and brings the face to the fore. My favorite shade of yellow is 810 Bismuth yellow, a color pencil from Caran d'Ache. I had the opportunity to see bismuths at the Halls of Minerals exhibition in Prague this summer, they were really huge and the colors were energetic and shiny.
TG: What would you say influences you and your practice?
FB: Getting to know new people and their stories. Watching them on a daily basis, cooking with them and listening to their experiences, reading their emotions. I like to see how they change over time, also I often wonder how will they look after some time passes.